Karen has pursued her passion for communication across the globe from east to west coasts in the US, the Middle East, and Europe. Her work has been honored at major award shows spanning a broad swath of channels and industries including food, fashion, beauty, automotive, beverage alcohol, finance, real estate, healthcare and more. She launched TBWA Dubai’s first social media application for Facebook and led US digital teams in the creation of platforms, tools, experiences, and social media campaigns, learning agile development and serving in the role as product owner, manager, scrum master, and digital creative director. Since joining BBDO Proximity she’s served as the creative lead on large, multi-disciplined teams in high-volume, global campaign roll-outs, adapting to local market needs. She was a key lead on the Düsseldorf team that pitched and won an account that brought substantial revenue and digital work into Proximity offices worldwide.
from my perspective:
I’m a firm believer in empowering the people on my team to do their work, not mine. I give them a lot of space to succeed or fail and work to strengthen the skills they need to lead. The stronger they are, the more I can contribute to other needs in the company, growing my own skillset. I’m not precious about expertise. Everyone has their strengths and it’s foolish to assume the CD knows the most about everything. My gift is leveraging the expertise of the people I work with in the right direction. I put extra effort into reviews and career development because creatives with direction, structure, and self-development opportunities are more contented, in my experience.
I’m a solid presenter. As an American in the Middle East, I had an accent most global clients could understand, so I was fortunate to present every deck I ever made plus I filled in for other creatives whose English was more limited. This was invaluable presentation practice for me. So, while I will still rehearse for big pitches, I feel completely at ease sharing work with clients.
Before I was a Creative Director, I was a writer. But before that, I studied the account and strategic side of the business. This has made me into an extremely organized thinker who easily executes to strategy and has a talent for structuring presentations, case studies, and project workflow. I’m more organized than most of my account partners. When a pitch presentation isn’t working or a case study doesn’t sound impressive enough, I’m the go-to “fixer.” I’m practiced at writing long-format content pieces or the shortest of headlines.
I know what I don’t know. Our industry has changed massively since I was in graduate school, which has turned me into a tireless self-educator. You’ll always find me playing with the 13-year-olds on the latest social media platform, listening to tech podcasts, ordering new smart assistant accessories, and consuming CRM white papers. I know just enough to be dangerous and make it a priority to learn more every day.
My teams have told me I’m positive, energetic and encouraging. Most middle children are. I believe work should be fun and our business is hard enough without internal strife.
2016 Cannes Bronze Pencil: Public Relations / Keys of Hope
2015 Eurobest Finalist: Film / Mars Minis
2014 Clio Winner: Facebook App / Out-of-home experience / Smashbox cosmetics
2014 Shorty Awards Finalist: Best Facebook campaign / Smashbox cosmetics
2010 Effie Finalist / Visa adopt-a-fan Facebook application
2009 New York Festival Gold / TBWA 2009 Holiday Cards
2009 National Silver Addy / Clemson Anti-Drinking TV
2009 Special Judge’s Award Addy / Humane Society TV Spot
2008 Radio-Mercury Award Gold Winner / Clemson "Tara" Radio Spot
2005 Print Magazine / Ronald McDonald House Poster
2004 Print Magazine / VisaEndurance Print Campaign
2004 Regional Gold Addy / Teen Anti-Smoking ViralMentalist Manual
2003 Special Judge’s Award Addys / Teen Anti-Smoking ViralMentalist Manual
2000 One Show Merit / U.S. Track & Field Campaign
1999 One Show Merit / Vietnam Campaign
Creative Director - BBDO Proximity Düsseldorf, Germany
Creative Director & Project Owner - Modea / Blacksburg, VA
Associate Creative Director - TBWA/RAAD / Dubai, UAE
Senior Writer - Grant, Scott & Hurley / San Francisco, CA
Writer - Erwin-Penland / Hill Holliday / Greenville, SC
Junior Writer - Brains on Fire / Greenville, SC
VCU Adcenter /Master of Science 2001
Virginia Commonwealth University / Bachelor of Science 1999
Children's National Hospital
Pepsi Co Amp Energy Drink
Dove / Galaxy Chocolate
Royal Opera House Muscat
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America
California Pizza Kitchen
South Carolina's Teen Anti-Smoking
St. Francis Hospital
Milliken & Company
Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill
the Humane Society
Limitless City Planners
The Qatar Foundation
Lipton / Unilever
Banfi Wines / Riunite
Bumble and bumble
Some people interview great but aren't so impressive on the job. I've always fallen into the opposite camp. I interview pretty well, but my value is always recognized and appreciated far more after I'm hired. My last ECD told me, "You were buttoned-up and I was worried you'd be too stiff. But you're hilarious!" Here are some fact-based achievements to support my claim that you'll like having me in the office
I was one of two Creative Directors who led a pitch team of six on behalf of the global BBDO and Proximity network to win the digital Bayer account. We were pitching against our own network teams around the world and I’m happy to say, with the support of our agency’s CCO, MD, and some very good planning from our UK office, our work won the account for the network at large. We executed to a solid strategy with touchpoints at the most pertinent moments in the consumer journey.
Modea.com needed a face lift - new case studies, content & design for every page. After 8 months, nothing had been accomplished. The project was transferred to me. With a team of 2 designers, 1 developer, and 1 video editor, we knocked out the entire project in 4 weeks. I’ve since inherited all Modea Marketing efforts.
Using agile methodologies, I was the product owner and creative director that led a creative and development team to delivering 3 digital platforms to Prudential Retirement services that resulted in $6 billion of new assets under management. This was quite good by retirement industry standards, and exceptional for Prudential. We achieved this with a team consisting primarily of design interns, and lacking account leadership. I picked up the client contact slack and was praised by name in our agency review. Upon completion of the project, we were offered two new Prudential projects worth $500K.
Our Visa client was unhappy with the quality of creative services TBWA Dubai was delivering. I was transferred to the team to solve this problem and to lead as Associate Creative Director. Our KPI goal was to increase Visa’s satisfaction levels by 20%. When agency review time arrived, client satisfaction scores increased by 50% and we were one of the top 2 earning accounts for the agency.
TBWA Worldwide was pitching Twix. Eight teams from offices around the world traveled to London to ideate. My two-person team’s TV work came up with 5 of the 8 spots that became the basis for the campaign that was developed and ultimately won the business for TBWA Worldwide. We had the privilege of working under global creative director, John Hunt and seeing at least one of our exact concepts make it through the pitch to be produced by TBWA NY.
Eight teams from TBWA agencies across the globe came together to help TBWA Dubai create campaigns to pitch Limitless, a global master plan city developer. My campaign won the $64 million business and I was the lead writer and associate creative director on the account for two years. Notable: The Limitless client personally requested I continue writing for them regardless of what budgets might be cut in the economic downturn.
Visa MENA & TBWA Dubai’s first Facebook application
I was the driving force behind the Visa FIFA World Cup Facebook application. It was TBWA Dubai’s first Facebook application and also a first for Visa Middle East. We had to achieve local, regional, and global approvals from both TBWA and Visa – a nail-biting hurdle. Then we had to get FIFA approval. To add to these challenges, TBWA Dubai did not have an in-house digital team at that time, so we had to outsource the work locally. Our digital partner in Dubai outsourced the job to London. And then the London company outsourced it to India, which had me on the phone with multiple cities all hours of the night. Despite the challenges, the application launched for the FIFA World Cup and Visa soared to over 11,000 users in 2 weeks and hundreds of thousands by the end of the games. The labor of love garnered us Effie finalist status the following year.
I regularly ranked in the top 98% out of 150 employees for KPI fulfillment at TBWA Dubai over the 4 years I was there.
In an agency-wide push to win the Pepsi Amp business for TBWA Dubai, my campaign was the chosen campaign and I took on lead writer responsibilities for that business for the Middle Eastern North African region.
After helping out on a campaign for Mikyagy, our Middle Eastern beauty products account, the client personally requested that I write for her company in the coming year.
My idea for a bagel box won Grant, Scott, and Hurley the Noah’s bagel business, landing me as lead writer for their very busy schedule. The work we did ultimately gained us their sister company, Einstein Bagels as well.
Erwin-Penland / Hill Holliday
At Erwin-Penland / Hill Holliday, I was asked to submit ideas for 5 major campaigns or pitches over the course of about 1.5 years along with 2-3 other teams. My team’s work was chosen each time.
Founded by Fireman. My tagline was chosen by the client and is still their mantra today.
RAGE teen anti-smoking accolades
My first year in the business had me working on a teen anti-smoking campaign for South Carolina. There was one Special Judge’s award given that year at the Addy awards for my copywriting on that campaign.
One Show Student Competition winner
Of the 30+ students assigned to develop and submit campaigns for the One Show competition under Creative Director, Mark Fenske, my partner and I were the only team not to give up and quit. Mr. Fenske’s direction style could be harsh, but always honest. He made the work better and we were more than happy to put ego aside and take his guidance. Our work & tedium was awarded a One Show merit. We were also one of the few teams to make it into the One Show annual both years of our graduate study.